Liberia’s Solicitor General ( Cllr. Syrenius Cephus) reacts to the Alternative National Congress allegation regarding prosecutorial misconduct.

Below is the full statement:

(Monrovia, Liberia 19 March, 2022)The Office of the Solicitor-General has described as absolutely shameful, but not surprising, a rather willful and deliberate misinformation campaign contained in a press statement purportedly written and signed by a certain Jonathan Dolakeh said to be the Deputy Secretary General of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), accusing state prosecutors lead by the Solicitor-General, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus of alleged “prosecutorial misconduct.”

The press statement alleges that during the cross-examination of the All Liberian Party(ALP) National Chairman, Theodore Momo, the state prosecutors, allegedly aided by ALP’s Political Leader, Benoni Urey have criminally extracted several pieces of evidence, establishing the innocence of, and exonerating Mr. Alexander Cummings and his Co-defendants from WhatsApp messages exported from the Collaborating Political Parties(CPP) National Advisory Committee(NAC) chat-room which were presented to the court and given to Co-defendant Cummings’ lawyers as part of discovery records submission.

The statement which has now become an ANC press release further noted that the intentional omission of any piece of evidence that speaks to the innocence of the accused amounts to misconduct on the part of the prosecution, stressing that in all criminal matters, the state is duty bound or has legal obligation to submit to the accused all the species of evidence the state has in its possession related to the allegations, and this includes evidence of inculpatory and exculpatory nature.

The ANC’s release further added that such alleged misconduct is in violation of Rule 7 of the Rules of Moral Code and Ethical Conduct which inhibits lawyers from surprising and secreting information and evidence capable of proving the innocence of a defendant, noting “the ANC says Cephus and team’s conduct is grossly unethical and criminally unprofessional.”

However, the office of the Solicitor-General says even though the information contained in the press statement is absolutely misguided and utterly appalling and does not even worth denying, but the fact that it is being quoted from a purported submission of the legal team of Alexander B. Cummings led by Ibrahim Sillah, a member of the Liberian Supreme Court Bar, makes it mandatory for the prosecution to respond.

The office of the Solicitor-General speaking for and on behalf of the prosecution says the allegation of prosecutorial misconduct as alleged by the defense team is shameful and very unfortunate for the defense team to make such an application on the records of the court and to put out such misinformation in the public domain through the media that the evidence that should have exonerated their clients from the crimes charged has been extracted from the prosecution’s own evidence that is being used to prosecute Co-defendant Alexander B. Cummings and others.

The office of the Solicitor-General describes such media campaign as an asinine slander by men of limited vision and courage, and a clear manifestation that the defense team led by Cllr. Sillah has absolutely no evidence to counter what the prosecution is producing as evidence in court, and is instead, depending on what it feels and thinks the prosecution has allegedly excluded, although without any proof, as evidence to exonerate their clients.

The release said such a third grader argument does not only debase whatever is left of the standards of the defense team’s argument but it also defeats the purpose of a competitive trial which the prosecution had anticipated, but which is now found wanting, giving the misinformation surrounding the arrests and prosecution of the defendants for the crimes of forgery and criminal conspiracy.

The office of the Solicitor-General says only a person who does not understand elementary trial practices and procedures, will make for the sake of undue publicity, such a frivolous and unfounded allegations that the prosecution has excluded evidence intended to exonerate a criminal defendant without producing a counter or superior evidence to disprove what has already been presented to court, testified to, identified, and confirmed by the witness on the stand and then marked by court without any objection from the defense team.

The Solicitor-General vehemently denies and dismisses any prosecutorial misconduct and calls on Cummings’ defense team led by Cllr. Ibrahim Sillah, to look for other appropriate means in seeking “weekends tips and other incidental fees” from the clients for the crisis the headache the team is facing in court to defend the criminal misconduct of their clients rather than designing fake stories as a means to justify their demands for pecuniary gains and to distract public attention and disrupt the trial.

The release issued today says though things are tough and the defense team has every legitimate reason to make demands upon its clients but the prosecution cannot and should be used in such a game of undue extortion and blackmail and has therefore described as blatantly reckless and irresponsible an ill-fated media campaign embarked upon by the defense team to mislead the general about the quality of evidence that is being presented in court by the Prosecution against Co-defendant Alexander B. Cummings and his partners in crimes.

The release further described the prosecutorial misconduct allegation as a pale reflection of the poor quality of the type lawyering that is being provided the defendants who are very much prosecution’s hooks, and noted that such hapless posturing by the legal team led by Cllr. Sillah is a clear demonstration of a complete lack of understanding of elementary trial practices and procedures in this jurisdiction.

As a form of workshop, the office of the Solicitor-General clarifies that the object and purpose of a discovery at trial dictates that the prosecution presents to the defense all pieces of evidence relies upon that form the basis for charging or indicting a criminal defendant, and which may be used or introduced at trial.

The rules of procedure of evidence governing all trials in the Liberian jurisprudence, the prosecution noted instructs that when a discovery is had, and then a witness is placed on the stand, and begins to give testimony, every piece of evidence testified to, identified by the witness, and before the said evidence is presented to the court for a mark of identification, it must first and foremost be presented to the adversary lawyer to be verified and to make sure whether such an evidence is part of the discovery submission.

The release said once the adversary lawyer confirms and affirms that the piece of evidence being introduced for mark of identification is part of the discovery in its possession, the court will then proceed to grant prosecution’s application and there and then ordered the document to be marked as requested.

Explaining the trial rules and procedures further, the office of the Solicitor-General noted that once a mark of identification is placed on the document being testified to and identified by the witness on the stand, the witness will again be asked to look at the court marked document and say whether it is the same document that he/she has just testified to and identified and when the witness answers in the affirmative, the prosecution will then proceed to make an application for the court to place a mark of confirmation on the same document, if and only if there is no objection from the defense team.

The release noted that in the instant case, the two documents in question are WhatsApp messages which were downloaded, provided at discovery to the defense team, and have been duly marked by the court as Exhibits “P/6 and P/13” because they were testified to, identified, and confirmed by the witness on the stand without any objection from Cummings’ defense team, meaning the defense team had duly verified that the two documents in question and were convinced that they were part of the discovery submission by the prosecution.

The release further noted that the evidence in question belongs to the prosecution, and therefore, it is inconceivable as to how the prosecution can extract documents from its own evidence that is being used to prosecute the criminal defendants but which the defense team alleges should have exonerated their clients.

The office of the Solicitor-General says it is a disgrace that the legal defense team appears not to know that once all of the documents have been testified to, identified, confirmed and marked by court, and when the prosecution or defense rests with a witness on the stand under direct examination, all of the pieces of evidence used during the examination which have already marked by court will be turned over to either the defense or prosecution to be used for cross-examination purposes.

The release added that once an adversary lawyer decides to cross-examine a witness on the stand it is only the court marked documents that were never objected to during the direct examination and already marked by court at the trial that will be used to test veracity and materiality of the witness’ testimony.

The release describes as extremely irrational, but not surprising the defense diversionary strategy of falsely relying on prosecution’s evidence to determine the purported innocence of Alexander B. Cummings a criminal defendant charged with the crimes of forgery and criminal conspiracy.

The office of the Solicitor-general accuses the defense team of running out of ideas and options to the extent that they do not know how to procure and present a valid and superior evidence to counteract the incontrovertible evidence being presented by the Government of Liberia against Co-defendant Alexander B. Cummins and his lieutenants.

The release said the prosecution is not easily deterred or intimidated by the trite tactics of Co-defendant Alexander B. Cummings behaving like a “jack-rabbi, and running helter-skelter with a ton of doomed excuses simply to evade facing former Vice President Joseph Boakai or Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence in court , and for this, has been making irrelevant travel demands raging from his own purported medical condition to the sudden illness of his 92 years mother without any medical records, a purported planned trip to US State Department to hold talks with US officials, a fake invitation from US Congress, among others, in apparent attempt to frighten the prosecution and the court with US sanctions and thereby blackmail the court the court to drop charges against him but with little success because of the quality of the evidence against him is so compelling than his wishful thinking.

It is elementarily offensive, the release added, that Cummings legal team and the masterminds of this latest vicious media campaign do not understand the rudiments of our trial practices and procedures as recorded in the famous Supreme Court opinion, in the case: “Gibson v Williams 33 LLR 193 (1985) 193, syllabus 7 which states: “All documentary evidence which are relevant and material to the issues of fact, and which are received and marked by the court shall be presented to the jury.” Rev. Code 1: 25.4; Walker v. Morris, 15 LLR 424 (1963).

The release advised the legal team of defendant Alexander B. Cummings and his supporters to mount appropriate legal challenges to the quantum of evidence being presented by the prosecution on a solid legal foundation to make their client proud and to justify their legal fees rather than hatching an ill-fated ploy to blackmail the prosecution and distract the general public from closely following what will eventually end up with the criminal conviction of Co-defendant Cummings his lieutenants because of the preponderance of evidence the prosecution has against them.

The office the Solicitor-General says the false claims of alleged “prosecutorial misconduct” is a poor try and error method designed and unleashed by Co-defendant Cummings and his legal team led by Cllr. Sillah as part of the wider negative media campaign against the prosecution and the government of Liberia while Cummings is out of the bailiwick of the Republic to baffle and hijack the trial and thereby escape facing the soon-to-be a barrage of prosecution’s subpoena witnesses that includes the likes of former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, Unity Party Secretary-General Mo Ali among others.

The office of the Solicitor-General reassures the public that the evidence against Co-defendant Alexander B. Cummings and his co-conspirators is compelling and incontrovertible that they are now “smelling the rat” with a possible conviction in the offing, and therefore maintains that the prosecution will neither be distracted by any negative media campaign and lies nor deterred by what seems the “last cry of a drowning man.”

The release calls on the defense team of Alexander Cummings and his supporters to stop blaming and vilifying the prosecution for the missteps and poor judgment of their leader in allegedly conspiring with his subordinates to forge the CPP framework document of May 19, 2020 for his personal ego which ultimately landed him in the dock as a criminal defendant and should blame himself and “cry his own cry” for not demonstrating an astute quality of leadership to take blames and resolve the matter amicably for which he is now tasting the rawness of the law.

Meanwhile, the Solicitor-General office further speaking for and on behalf of the prosecution categorically denies violating Rule 7 of the Rules of Moral Code and Ethical Conduct and maintains that the prosecution team cannot and must not be held accountable for Co-defendant Alexander B. Cummings own poor judgment and for developing a “bruised ego” in his seeming blind pursuit to outsmart his colleagues in the CPP as well as his apparent arrogance and unbridled failure to demonstrate to resolve the crisis internally short of litigation.

The release concluded that the prosecution will ensure that Co-defendant Cummings and his lieutenants are given a fair and free trial without any hindrance and the opportunity to face their accusers, where applicable, as a matter of law, but noted that no amount of negative media campaign or inflammatory comments and false allegations will distract the prosecution from proceeding with the trial.

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